Outlook for Video Game Design Careers

Learn what's going on and what to expect in the video game design industry.

The Time Is Right

Video game design represents a vibrant and fast-growing part of the entertainment industry. Who doesn't want to be involved in an industry that provides amusement and entertainment for 59 percent of the American public? Talk about job stability. And with digital content—including games, add-ons, mobile apps, and social networking games making up 53 percent of games sales in 2013, the industry is solid and thriving. But you'll need to be at the top of your game to succeed within this competitive, fast-changing field.

 

Mobile Makes Its Move

With CD-ROMs and computer games going the way of the dodo, mobile and tablets are the top current gaming platforms. In fact the Entertainment Software Association states that 44 percent of gamers play games on their smartphone and another 33 percent play on a wireless device. While these platforms are soaring, don't count out dedicated game consoles, such as Wii U, Xbox One and PS4. Fifty-one percent of American households own a game console and those that do, often own two.

So here's what can expect to earn and some things that may affect your salary if you've decided upon a career as a video game designer.

Things That Affect Video Game Design Salaries

Here are just a few of the issues that will come into play when you are looking for jobs and hoping for that big paycheck:

  • Geographic Location – If you live in a large city instead of a rural area, chances are good that your video game designer salary will be higher to account for cost of living differences. 
     
  • Job Experience –The longer you've worked in the field the more valuable you'll be to your employer. You'll have expertise and an understanding of how to get things done in a real-world work environment.
     
  • Education Level – While a degree is not the be-all-end-all key to success, it certainly can't hurt you—especially when it comes time to negotiate your video game designer salary.
     
  • Job Title – While paying your dues is often an inescapable part of starting a new career, it never hurts to be thinking about your job path and how you might like your career to evolve over time.
     
  • Employer – If you work for a large company, you may make more than if you work for a small startup. There can be clear advantages to either, so it's really a matter of determining which employer is the best fit for you. 

Salary Averages

Here are median annual salaries for video game industry jobs:

PositionMedian Annual Salary*
Programmer $74,280
Artist/Animator $61,370
Video Game Designer $58,950
Producer $71,350
Quality Assurance Tester $34,460
Sound Designer $41,200
Business Marketer $119,480

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15; Computer Programmers; Multimedia Artists and Animators; Graphic Designer; Producers and Directors; Quality Control Inspectors; Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians; Marketing Managers.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Where Are the Career Opportunities?

In the U.S., five states account for nearly 75 percent of the video game industry. If you're serious about a video game design career, you may want to consider relocating to one of the following states:

RankState

Percentage of Video Number of Game Design Employees

1 California 52,996
2 Texas 13,613
3 Washington 11,225
4 New York 5,474
5 Massachusetts 4,692

Source: Entertainment Software Association Industry Report 2013.